About greg

Just another bozo on the bus.

a few random thoughts

— Grotesque. That’s probably the best term to describe the appalling events surrounding Comrade Trump’s photo-op. The modern definition of ‘grotesque’ connotes something that’s distorted and unnatural in shape or size, something abnormal or incongruous, something hideous, ugly, but oddly compelling. The term carries slightly different meanings in art and literature, but the general idea is the same. It comes from the Latin grotta, referring to a cave, and was originally used to describe uncouth paintings discovered on the walls of excavated Roman ruins.

“…and a matching face mask with tiny metallic stars.” Accessorizing the police state.

I came across ‘grotesque’ yesterday morning in an opinion piece by a WaPo fashion writer. She included descriptions of what the participants of the photo-op wore. Ivanka: “black cropped pants and blazer…a very large white handbag…a matching face mask with tiny metallic stars.” AG Barr: “slack-jawed in an open-collar shirt, no tie. His jacket was open.” Press secretary McEnany: “a closefitting double-breasted blazer with gold metallic buttons and skinny trousers. She was perched atop a pair of stiletto pumps.” But she ends with this astute observation:

The picture he orchestrated shows no hint of a commander in chief rising above or binding up anything. The photograph doesn’t convey power or competence. From every angle, in every iteration, it’s an image of a whitewashed group turning a deaf ear to a country convulsing over racial injustice.

— This reminds me. I’ve reached a point at which it’s difficult for me to watch US network television shows. It’s not so much that the shows are bad, but that almost every woman actor in a major role looks like a model. European television tends to cast actors who look like real people. It makes television more believable (which, I admit, is ridiculous). Why can’t American television cast actors based on their acting ability instead of on their appearance?

— On Tuesday, Congressman Steve King of Iowa was defeated in a primary race by an equally feral Republican who is canny enough NOT to say the stupid shit out loud. Somebody on Facebook noted the “competition for dumbest man in Congress just fell off a few levels.” Which made me think of Louie Gohmert, about whom I’ve written before.

Louie Gohmert (R, WTF, Texas), the stupidest humanoid in Congress.

I once devised a Gohmert Stupidity Scale to describe Republican stupidity. It was based on the Richter Scale for earthquakes. For example, a Gohmert 2 event would denote a minor stupid GOP action that would be felt slightly by some people, but cause no damage to buildings. A Gohmert 5 tremblor would be felt widely, causing damage of varying severity to poorly constructed social structures. Zero to slight damage to all other social institutions.

Trump’s photo-op was a Gohmert 8 event. Widespread major damage, traditional social structures likely to be destroyed. Moderate to heavy damage even to sturdiest disaster-resistant social institutions. Felt across extremely large regions.

— I’ve heard this story from a number of different sources over the years. I’ve never researched it, so I don’t know if it’s true or if it’s an urban myth but I think it’s revealing regardless. It’s about the last time the Insurrection Act of 1807 (the Act Trump has threatened to use) was implemented. That was in 1992, the Rodney King riots. Some nearby US Marine units were ordered to accompany LAPD officers on their calls. One police officer (with a pair of Marine riflemen) responded to a domestic disturbance call. As they approached the house, they heard a couple of shots fired. The police officer pulled his sidearm and told the Marines, “Cover me.”

And here’s the problem. To the police officer, ‘cover me’ means ‘draw your weapons and be prepared in case you need to use them.’ But to a Marine, ‘cover me’ means laying down a barrage of covering fire to allow their squadmates to advance. Which is what they did. They started shooting the shit out of the house. Luckily, nobody was killed, but it shows one of the many problems of having military personnel try to do a policing job.

— I’ve been thinking a lot about moral courage lately. Or the lack of it. I’m absolutely certain there are people in the Trump administration (and in Congress) who know Trump is corrupt, inept, and generally unfit to serve as POTUS, but refuse to act. That’s moral cowardice. I’m glad that Gen. James ‘Better Late than Never’ Mattis finally spoke up, but I wish he hadn’t waited until things got this ugly. The time to do the right thing is when you recognize it’s the right thing to do. Mattis resigned, but sat quietly until yesterday.

Compare him to US Navy Capt. Brett Crozier, who was relieved of his command of the USS Theodore Roosevelt after writing a letter asking for help regarding the safety of his crew during a Covid-19 outbreak. He knew when he released that letter that he was ruining his career, but it was the right thing to do for his crew. So he did it. He didn’t wait until the death toll on his ship had hit a critical stage.

Served in both World Wars, went to prison rather than name names during communist frenzy. He’s buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

And I think about Dashiell Hammett and his civil rights and anti-fascist activities in the 1950s. He’d been subpoenaed to testify about a list of contributors to a bail fund (it was used to bail out suspected communists). Hammett refused to supply any information, and was found in contempt of court. He did six months in a federal prison rather than reveal the names of contributors. Prison, Lillian Hellman said, “had made a thin man thinner, a sick man sicker.” Hammett’s health never recovered.

Two years later, Hammett was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee and again he refused to cooperate, knowing it might send him back to prison. He later said, “I don’t let cops or judges tell me what I think democracy is.” That’s moral courage.

— As I write this, we have 109,204 confirmed Covid-19 deaths in the United States. The actual number of Covid-19 deaths is undoubtedly higher. There were 1134 new confirmed deaths yesterday. Despite the fact that a thousand Americans are dying every day, Covid-19 is largely being ignored by the Trump administration. Trump is bored with Covid-19. Besides folks were mean to him about it.

— That’s it. Random thoughts. Wash your hands. Wear a mask. Don’t be a dick.

it’s not funny anymore

Maybe it all comes down to this: Donald Trump is afraid of being laughed at. Maybe the underlying motive for much/most/all of his most astonishing, reprehensible behavior is just that he’s terrified of being embarrassed, of being publicly humiliated. Of being laughed at.

Take yesterday’s appalling photo-op. Throughout much of the day a big chunk of the online world devoted itself to mocking and laughing at Trump for turning off the lights at the White House and hiding in a basement bunker because angry protesters were at his doorstep. For example:

Trump drowned in scorn for turning off White House lights as if he ‘ran out of Snickers’ on Halloween.

Trump’s response? A short stupid speech followed by a long stupid walk for a photo-op. But that photo-op was made possible by his order to send uniformed goons to bully and beat and pepper spray peaceful protesters. It wasn’t just a photo-op; it was chest-thumping. It was a ‘show of strength’ by a coward entirely lacking in real strength. It was Trump saying, “Who’s hiding now, bitches? Who’s laughing now?”

Preparation for Trump’s photo-op.

He’d offered that same stop-the-laughing prescription to US governors earlier yesterday during his conference call. He said:

“It was incredible what happened in the state of Minnesota. They were a laughingstock, all over the world. They took over the police department. The police were running down the street, sirens blazing, the rest of them running, it was on camera. And then they wiped out, you probably have to build a new one. I’ve never seen anything like it and the whole world was laughing.”

The whole world, laughing. That’s the most humiliating thing possible. The fear of derisive laughter has been a constant theme in the Trumpverse. Back in 1987, when Trump first publicly considered running for president, he took out full page adverts in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Boston Globe saying, ‘The world is laughing at America’s politicians as we protect ships we don’t own, carrying oil we don’t need, destined for allies who won’t help.’

The whole world, laughing at Trump.

There’s reason to believe Trump actually decided to run for president after the 2011 White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, in which he was the butt of jokes from both the MC Seth Meyers (“Donald Trump said recently he’s got a great relationship with ‘the blacks.’ Unless the Blacks are a family of white people, I bet he’s mistaken”) and, worse, President Obama (“[J]ust recently, in an episode of ‘Celebrity Apprentice’ — at the steakhouse, the men’s cooking team did not impress the judges from Omaha Steaks. And there was a lot of blame to go around. But you, Mr. Trump, recognized that the real problem was a lack of leadership. And so ultimately, you didn’t blame Lil Jon or Meatloaf. You fired Gary Busey. These are the kind of decisions that would keep me up at night”).

0230, back in 2014 — a genius at strategy and winning.

During his presidential campaign Trump often railed about the US being laughed at. NATO was laughing at us, he said. China, laughing at us. OPEC, the European Union, Japan, the Taliban, Mexico, ISIS, Russia — all of them, laughing at us. All that laughter would stop, he claimed, once he was elected president.

Trump bring shame to the Bible.

It hasn’t, of course. The laughter has increased. At first the laughter was because Trump is a buffoon. In the diplomatic world, he was laughed at because he’s an uncultured lout who’d weaseled his way into power. In the realm of domestic politics he was laughed at because he’s a pompous jackass who lacks even the most basic understanding of governance. The laughter never stopped, but now it’s often tinged with anxiety.

That anxiety is justified. Yesterday’s scene could have come from some absurdist comedy routine. The most irreligious president ever, moments after calling himself “ally of all peaceful protesters,” had police forcibly remove peaceful protesters (including members of the clergy and the press) from a public space in order to pose awkwardly in front of a church, holding a Bible, which he’s almost certainly never read and doesn’t believe in. Afterwards, he literally had men with riot shields line up so he could walk through them like some conquering hero in a Roman triumph. There’s some dark comedy in that moment — or there would be, if it wasn’t real.

Nobody there to whisper “Memento mori” in his ear.

The fact is, we have valid reasons to be nervous. Because 1) Trump is afraid, and 2) he has power, and 3) he’s willing to abuse it, because 4) Republicans in Congress lack the integrity and patriotism to oppose Trump’s lunatic abuse of power, and 5) some military leaders are apparently willing to give illegal orders and 6) some military personnel are apparently willing to follow illegal orders (as evidenced by the use of military helos last night to intimidate and harass protesters).

It’s crazy that we have to start asking ourselves questions like: Will some governors actually follow Trump’s demand to activate National Guard units to ‘dominate’ the ‘battle space’ of American cities? Will Trump actually send US military troops to ‘impose order’ in cities in states that have refused to activate the National Guard? Will military leaders be willing to order those troops to fire on civilians? Will those troops actually follow such orders?

The answers to those questions scare the hell out of me.

This shit just isn’t funny anymore. It turns out, it never was funny. We just didn’t know.

change gonna come

Every time the United States is coping with widespread rioting sparked by racism and police violence during an economic crisis caused by the near-collapse of the national healthcare system overloaded by an inept and indifferent response to a global pandemic taking place a few months before the most critical presidential election in the history of this nation pitting an essentially decent, good-hearted but bumbling old white man against a malignant, mendacious, ignorant old white man, I am reminded of the words of the Poet Sam Cooke.

A change gonna come.

It has been a long time coming. I don’t know what the change will be, but it’s coming. There’s no guarantee the change will be a good one. But all the same, it’s coming. I’m scared to be very hopeful, I really am. I know the change — even if it’s a good one, even if it’s the change I want — won’t be nearly enough to make everything right. But it’s coming, and it’ll bring some clarity. In a few short months, things will start to get better. Or they’ll start to get much worse. But a change gonna come.

You can’t dodge it. You can’t stop it. You can work to make it the change you want, but it’s coming. You can organize, you can protest, you can sit at home and binge watch television, you can throw stones, you can vote, you can wear a mask, you can ignore science, you can pray to any entity you can believe in, you can burn the motherfucker down, you can donate money, you can buy a t-shirt with a slogan on it, you can bake bread, you can call names, you can close your eyes and hope it all goes away, but it won’t. You know it won’t. You know it won’t.

Change gonna come.

killed by indifference

A lot has been written about the way George Floyd was killed. I think most of what I’ve read gets the story wrong. People have called it a deliberate murder. They’ve said it was a result of racial animus. They’ve described it as a hate crime.

I don’t think that’s entirely correct. I think it was something even worse. I think it was an act of casual indifference.

I don’t know what motivated Derek Chauvin, the Minneapolis police officer who kept his knee on Floyd’s neck. How could I? But from watching the video, my sense is that Chauvin wasn’t angry. He wasn’t scared. He didn’t feel threatened. He wasn’t nervous or alarmed or even annoyed. Chauvin, to me, seemed unconcerned, not just about what was he was doing, but also to what was taking place around him. He seemed unmoved by it all.

That’s what I saw in the video. Chauvin just didn’t care. He was unmoved by Floyd’s pleas for help. He had no concern about Floyd’s well-being. Floyd simply didn’t matter; not as a suspect in a crime, not as a citizen of Minneapolis, not as a member of the public Chauvin was sworn to protect, not even as a fellow human being. Chauvin just didn’t care.

I’ve heard folks use the phrase ‘man’s inhumanity to man’ when talking about this killing. I’m not seeing that. I’m not convinced Chauvin saw Floyd as a fellow human being, as a person with the same thoughts and passions and feelings and dreams and concerns shared by every other human being.

Elie Wiesel, a Romanian Jew who survived the Nazi Holocaust — who survived being interned in the Máramarossziget ghetto, who survived both the Auschwitz concentration camp and the death camp at Buchenwald — had this to say:

The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of beauty is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, but indifference between life and death.

Would Chauvin have done the same thing to a white person? I don’t know; maybe. Possibly. Probably, depending on the social status of the person. But it’s hard to imagine racism not playing a role in the killing. Certainly, racism was involved in the police response to the inevitable protest afterwards. We didn’t see any tear gas or rubber bullets used against any of the lockdown protesters, did we.

The face of indifference.

In the end, it comes down to callous disregard for George Floyd. Floyd just didn’t matter. His suffering didn’t matter. His pleas for help didn’t matter. His civil rights didn’t matter. His life didn’t matter. Nor do the lives of his family and friends and, in an ever expanding circle, the lives of people of color in Minneapolis, in Minnesota, in the United States.

It’s not just George Floyd who didn’t matter. Of the 100,000 American deaths from Covid-19 over the last four months, 56.5% have been non-white. Only 28% of the US population is non-white. This is no coincidence. Apply that same metric to incarceration, to wealth, to general health care, to arrest rates, to infant mortality, to employment, to just about any social criterion in the United States.

Indifference is the key to inhumanity. George Floyd was killed by indifference. He simply didn’t matter.

don’t be a dick; wear a mask

I don’t mind wearing a mask. I don’t like it, but I don’t mind it all that much. I hate the fact that it’s necessary (and, yeah, it IS actually necessary), but it’s a relatively small inconvenience. I have maybe a half dozen masks, all of which were given to me by friends. When I have to put one on, it’s a reminder that there are folks out there who care about me. I like that.

That’s the reason we wear the masks — because we care about other people. Because we’re not selfish dicks. We wear masks because this is a public health issue; not a political one, not a religious one, not a cultural one. Comrade Trump and his followers seem determined to make it into all three.

Me, being a good citizen.

Politically, they say it’s about Democrats wanting to scare the public, wanting to hurt the economy in order to damage Trump’s chance for re-election. Which is profoundly stupid. Like everybody else, I want to go back to pubs and coffee shops. I want to go to the movies. I want to stroll through the crowds at the farmer’s market, and linger over the counter of the pastry shop, and spend a few idle hours at the art center, and wander through the aisles of the market. I miss all that.

But the only way we’re going to be able to safely do that stuff again is if we wear masks for a while — until we can get a handle on Covid-19. Which we are NOT going to do if we don’t do more actual testing, if we don’t do contact tracing, and if we don’t wear the goddamn masks.

In terms of religion, they suggest Democrats want to keep churches closed in order to…I don’t know what. Something Satanic, I suppose. But we’ve seen that houses of worship are now the most common source of new Covid-19 outbreaks. That’s true internationally. Prayer alone is a poor prophylactic against viruses. The only way folks will be able to safely return to church is — well, again, testing, contact tracing, and wearing masks. If a divine being exists, he or she or it should be able to hear prayers said through a mask.

Don’t be a dick; wear a damn mask.

Culturally, wearing a mask gets passed through a filter of absurd masculinity and phony notions of heroism. Those folks standing together in crowds, mask-free, shouting about tyranny and mocking mask-wearing reporters — they see themselves as heroes. They see themselves as William Wallace (or at least Mel Gibson and his hair in Braveheart) shouting ‘Freedom!’ (they seem to forget he’s beheaded immediately afterwards). They see themselves as a Band of Brothers (the television mini-series about WWII, not that poofy Shakespeare St. Crispin’s Day bullshit), courageously displaying their willingness to stare a virus down and show it who’s boss. Wearing a mask, they think, is cowardly. A mask is a white flag of surrender to…something. Mask-Nazis.

Burial at Arlington National Cemetery. You think these guys are cowards?

It’s not cowardly to wear a mask when you buy groceries. It’s not cowardly to wear a mask when you’re burying your brothers-in-arms. It’s not brave to wear a mask either. It’s just being respectful. It’s just being a good citizen, a decent person. It’s just looking out for other folks in your community. It’s just good public health and common sense.

Wearing a mask is about not being a dick. Don’t be a dick. Wear a mask.

the bluto party

You know what? It’s time we (and by ‘we’ I mean ‘anybody who is paying attention to what’s happening right now in the United States’) stopped thinking of the Republican Party as a legitimate political party — because they’ve stopped acting like one. A political party is just a collection of people who share the same general ideology and hold the same general political positions in regard to governance. The operative term there is ‘governance’. Based on their behavior, Republicans no longer believe in governance; they only believe in ruling.

Seriously. The folks who represent Republicans now have abandoned the notion that every political party should be subject to the same rules and laws. Since Trump took office, Republicans have gutted congressional oversight, they’ve perverted the advice and consent process, they’ve twisted the concept of judicial review. Worst of all, they’ve changed the executive branch from being just one of three co-equal branches of government into…well, Bluto. What Bluto wants, Republicans deliver.

In fact, Republicans have become the Bluto Party.

Bluto, if you’re not familiar with him, was Popeye’s nemesis. A loudmouthed, blustering, bully who tries to get what he wants through brute force and/or trickery. In the Popeye cartoons Bluto takes on a variety of guises — sometimes he’s a fellow sailor, but he’s also shown up as an evil professor, a wicked hypnotist, a lecherous lifeguard, a devious sheik, a generic thug.

It’s the same with modern Republicans. They take on various guises, but they all behave like Bluto. You can put Bluto in a suit and a tie, but he’s still Bluto. You can put him in a drawing room or an orchestra pit, but he’s still Bluto. You can spray him with a gentleman’s cologne, he’s still Bluto. You can dress him in judicial robes, still Bluto. There is absolutely nothing you can do to unBluto him. He’s Bluto to the bone.

“You’d better lock up your doors today.
‘Cause Abu Hassan is on his way.
Go in hiding when I come riding
from me and my forty thieves.

Your wife and children, your money too,
I’ll steal them from you before I’m through.
I’m out gunning, so start in running
from me and my forty thieves.

My gang’s the roughest,
But I’m the toughest,
and that’s no lie.
You’ve got to hand it
to this bad bandit,
because I’m a terrible guy.

Comrade Trump, of course, is the bull goose Bluto. All lesser Blutos must bow to him. He’s released the inner Bluto in every Republican in government. For example, Bluto says it’s perfectly okay to ignore subpoena if it’s issued by congressional Democrats. Bluto argues (in front of Bluto-dominated courts) that a congressional subpoena MUST have a legislative purpose. But Bluto Republicans in congress have a long (long, long, long) history of issuing subpoenas for purely investigative purposes — even when those investigations have repeatedly turned up nothing.

I’m basically saying ALL Republicans in government now are Bluto. Republicans in Congress — Bluto. Republicans in the Justice Department — mad Bluto. Republicans who’ve been place in federal courts even when rated unqualified — totally Bluto. You may say that it’s not fair to paint all Republicans with the same brush, and I suppose you’d be right. But I’m of the opinion that if they’re benefiting from Bluto Republican behavior and not calling it out, then they’re Bluto too, and just as guilty as every other Bluto.

The only comfort to be found in this is that Bluto always gets his ass kicked in the end. I mean, it works that way in the cartoons. So I’m sending spinach to Joe Biden and every other Popeye motherfucker running a campaign against Bluto.

mawkish memorial day metaphor

Did my bit yesterday. You know…the ritual of tending the graves for Memorial Day. It’s supposed to be a holiday created by a grateful nation to honor the men and women who died while in military service. Some folks are grateful enough to visit cemeteries, large and small in every corner of the nation, to plant a flag on the grave of every veteran. It’s a pretty idea, isn’t it.

But let’s face it, the nation really isn’t all that grateful, and it’s been years since the holiday was about dead veterans. Modern Memorial Day is more a celebration of consumerism than anything else — like most American holidays. But it’s also expanded beyond its original purpose. There’s still a lot of tending to graves, but it’s no longer limited to veterans.

I’m fine with that. It’s nice to have a day set aside for remembering the dead, whoever they are, however they died. That’s especially true now, when the butcher’s bill for Covid-19 will almost certainly top 100,000 in the next week. Maybe next year somebody will plant a flag on the grave of every Covid-19 victim. I think we, as a nation, will need to find some way to express both our horror and our collective grief at the loss of so many lives. Right now it seems we’re either in shock or denial of the enormity of what’s happening. The fact that it’s still happening — that the pandemic is ongoing — makes it difficult to process. Some events are too catastrophic to comprehend until after they’ve finished, until we know how they end.

Yesterday I visited half a dozen different cemeteries — some in the city, some in the burbs, some in the middle of farmland. Some were nicer than others, some better tended, some busy with other Memorial Day caretakers, some weren’t. I helped tend to graves of family and friends, even those of a few strangers, only about half of whom were veterans.

As usual, I shot a few photographs. I generally delete most of the photos I shoot, especially on Memorial Day.  How many photos do you need of gravestones and flags?

This morning I looked at the photos I shot yesterday. I deleted all but a few. Two of them struck me. One, shot in an urban cemetery, was of the rows and rows of flags — a reminder that there was a time when it was common for American men to do a few years of military service, that it was seen as an honorable thing to do. The other photo was of the farmland just outside a rural cemetery, rows and rows of seedlings growing.

Rows of flags, rows of crops. There are metaphors in those two photos. They’re mostly trite, mawkish metaphors, almost embarrassingly sincere, but they’re also honest. Which is more than I can say for a lot of what we see on Memorial Day. 

defending america against bill gates and chicom viruses

Okay, let’s be honest now. This poor guy wouldn’t have had to exercise his Second Amendment rights if Bill Gates hadn’t paid the Chinese Communist government of China to release the Wuhan Virus to infect all of the Republicans in the United States so he could develop a ‘global vaccine’ which is actually a Human Implantable Quantum Dot Microneedle Vaccination Delivery System (patent #060606) that injects quantum dot microneedles, a digital identification mark, AND a device for buying and selling cryptocurrency. They want you to believe a mask will protect you from the vaccine, BUT IT WON’T. So of course, he had no choice but to open fire on his third visit to the Waffle House.

Actual Waffle House where the 2nd Amendment Remedy was exercises (probably, you can’t prove it’s not, so shut up).

Where in the Constitution does it say you have to wear a mask to order a damn waffle? Tell me that. We didn’t fight a war in Europe and Southeast Asia just so China can make us wear masks to buy a damn waffle. We have rights and freedom, so they hate us and our damn waffles.

Who is the real victim here? WHO?!!11? Also, only pussies wash their hands. Keep American Great Again Still.